Are you safe on the Internet?

I have a question for you, would you be okay if someone knew everything about you? How you feel? Where you are at all times? And so on.  If you answered no, then read further on what I have to say, if you answered yes, still read, it will just take a few minutes of your time.

Why do I have this question? It’s because of things I want to share with you. Let me ask you, Are you safe online? Do you know what you are consuming on the internet? Do you know how things function on the internet and especially on Social Media? Let me tell you, the internet is not as safe as we think, social media is not a place where you connect with people anymore. It’s much more than that.

It’s safe to say that Internet/Social Media is a major part of our lives, our daily routine includes a dose. We wake up to it and we sleep to it. When I think of Social Media, the first thing that comes to my mind is addiction, and more often than not people I talk to about Social Media tell me the same. “It’s become addictive, I need to spend some time off it.” And yet it’s so hard to get rid of it. Why is that? It’s because they base most of the internet today on ‘Persuasive technology’ and ‘Positive Intermittent Reinforcement’ which triggers our dopamine levels.

What is Persuasive technology? It is a way designed to change attitudes or behaviours of the users through persuasion and social influence, but not actually forcing the individual. And what is Positive Intermittent Reinforcement, in simple words, it’s like training a pup/dog, you reward it when they follow your commands. Here we are rewarded with new content every time you scroll.

The entire concept of Social media was to connect, share ideas, thoughts and information through virtual networks and communities. Yes, it serves the purpose rightly, but at what cost is the question we need to ask. It has become a money-making business model which is slowly affecting a lot of lives. The need to stay connected and the fear of missing out has made us so vulnerable that we are selling ourselves on the internet.

How you ask?

Most platforms run on a concept called user engagement, apps track every action you make, from the time you spend on a particular post to your likes, dislikes, interests, preferences, the people you like. Based on this information, AI models and datasets are made on users. This data collection is so extensive that it is capable of behaviour modification. The recommendations you receive on the app, the notifications you receive, are all timed in such a way that you invest your time and engage within the app.

As a user you are being sold to millions of advertisers on the internet, what you see today is based on all the information that has been collected on you. From the things you search to the things you post. Every single thing is tracked and stored as data. This is so subtle that we hardly we notice about it, unless we give a deeper think about it.

We are so influenced about the things we see on the internet; we decide based on that. Millions of tests are done on user interaction and engagement, major decisions have been triggered using Social Media. The US presidential elections, the Brexit, the Rohingya genocide, and many more had major impact via Social media.

And it’s just not user manipulation, there is so much fake news on the internet these days, it is more likely that false news is spread 6 times faster than the actual truth and it is flooded in such a way that the actual truth is buried and people don’t even want to know about it.

Not to mention the adverse effects it is having on teenage kids. Teens these days have so much screen time, physical activity has become next to none. There is a constant need of validation, self-worth has gone for a toss and they are more concerned about people they are connected virtually have to say about them. Popularity, likes, comments, people’s status define us more than what we are, this has just affected people with their mental health, leading to depression, anxiety and what not.

A typical app has access to your contacts, camera, microphone, photos, location, calendar. This is more information than what my family has of me. It’s like the creepy person who is stalking you, but in this case, you have permitted that crazy to stalk you. Coming back to my initial question, would you let someone know everything about? Even if it’s a virtual entity.

I know for a fact that my personal information or conversations are not private anymore, it’s being collected and stored on a data server across the world and my conscious will always have a thought about having an invisible shadow following me everywhere.

The question that arises is that should we not use our phones, the internet or social media? There is no right or wrong answer to this, like everything in life there are pros and cons and is always debatable. It ends at how much are you willing to sell yourself to the world!

If you read it so far and found it informative, do share it among your folks, it may be worth someone’s time and digital privacy.

Until next time..